Cultural workers in Belarus have penned an open letter denouncing police brutality following the Belarusian presidential elections on 9 August, which saw long-standing president Alexander Lukashenko win a sixth term in office amid widespread criticism of a rigged result.
Signed by 374 artists, actors, painters, photographers, curators, and other cultural workers, the letter condemns the result and lack of independent observers at the polls. It also denounces the “unprecedented level of force and brutality against peaceful citizens.”
Over the past week, as tens of thousands of Belarusians have taken to the streets in the biggest protest the country has seen in recent history, the police detained more than 7,000 people, subjecting thousands to abuse and torture.
“According to eyewitnesses, people are held in inhumane conditions: up to 40-50 detainees are placed in cells designed to hold 10,” the letter say. “The detainees are denied access to water, food, hygiene and medical care.” The signatories also say the actions are “illicit, inadequate, and offensive” to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.
The letter has four demands: an end to police brutality, the release of political prisoners and detainees, new transparent elections, and free access to information — something that has become a particularly pressing issue since the regime banned access to the internet for several days last week. The signatories are also asking for an investigation into the acts of aggression against civilians.
“Like the protest in Belarus itself, our open letter was a grassroots initiative and collective self-organisation,” one of the initiators of the letter, curator Antonina Stebur, told The Calvert Journal.